Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Brian's mid-term report

Dear friends,

This month marks the half-way point in my term as the District 7 Director, so I wanted to report out to you all on what has and hasn't happened, both on a general level and in terms of fulfillment of my campaign promises.

General News

Measure B.  The most important news on the general level comes from the wonderful success of Measure B, the Safe Clean Water Measure, winning a stunning 74% of the vote on last November's ballot.  This approval level becomes either the highest or one of the highest ever for a Santa Clara County property tax.  Measure B will help accelerate our efforts to prepare our reservoirs for earthquakes, to provide resiliency against flooding, and to kickstart significant increases in the District's environmental restoration programs.  I became heavily involved in increasing environmental funding and accountability in the measure as well as supporting it to the public, and several of my colleagues thanked me for all my work.

The vast majority of environmentalists who took positions on Measure B ended up supporting it, while a few opposed it.  Opposition came from disappointment in how funding was handled in prior years.  I believe those problems are fixed in the new Safe Clean Water program as well as getting more funding, and I look forward to working with the environmental community in getting funding happening right away.

Turnover in the Board of Directors.  For a board that had the same directors during such a long time, the past few years resulted in tremendous turnover.  Of the seven directors who served prior to the November 2010 election, five will soon be replaced.  While experience is valuable, so is turnover.  I think we as new members of the Board will bring a great deal of benefit to the District, as well as a "reset" opportunity where needed for some parts of community relations.  I welcome incoming Board Directors Nai Hsueh and Barbara Keegan, and salute all of the directors who left or will soon be leaving for their years of service.

In related news, Director Gage was just elected mayor of Gilroy and will be leaving us.  I expect we will accept applications for a replacement in early January and appoint someone by the end of the month.  Obviously this will be an important decision, and I believe there are wide opportunities for anyone with strong connections to District 1 and with water-related experience.

My campaign 

My campaign promised to work on three major changes:  more public involvement, greater emphasis on the environment, and increased action on mercury contamination of our watershed.

More public involvement.  We made significant progress in public involvement and public trust, as can be seen by competitive elections and widespread support for Measure B.  More specifically, I chaired a special committee of Board directors to revamp the rules for citizen advisory committees, giving them greater flexibility to operate and to set their own agendas.  We held more evening meetings in 2011, and I hope to do even more in upcoming years.

More environmental emphasis.  We see this in the passage of Measure B, where I successfully lobbied my colleagues to increase funding for Shoreline protection from sea level rise and more money for fish habitat improvements.  The District also adopted a policy of becoming carbon-neutral by 2020, an ambitious target that I plan to do all I can to make happen.  I've been involved in many other environmental efforts at the District as well - you can see some of them in the 70-plus blog posts and Facebook updates that I've done, also part of getting more public involvement and transparency.

Increased action on mercury.  A lot has happened in this area, with the District continuing mercury remediation efforts in reservoirs and wrapping up removal of mercury contaminated mine tailings in the Jacques Gulch area.  The District has also started planning on how to separate Alamitos Creek from Almaden Lake, a crucial issue in dealing with mercury, and Measure B includes more funding to address this issue.

I still want to see legislative action on getting mercury producers to pay for cleanups or participate in taking mercury out of the environment, but meanwhile I think we've made some significant progress.

Looking ahead

I expect we'll have a lot to do with implementing Measure B, renovating the biggest of our three water treatment plants, dealing with old dams, managing water imports from the Sacramento Delta, and revising the state-level enabling legislation for the District.  I remain interested in reducing the total number of directors from seven to five, in making the Board more like a typical city council in terms of pay and time commitment, and in improving the election process.

I also plan to keep my commitment of no more than two terms on the Board.  Sometime about a year from now, I will start to think about whether I should run for re-election, and if I do, then I can guarantee you'll be hearing from me!

In the meantime, I wish everyone a Happy Holiday season as we look forward to 2013.